Simon Helberg, Melissa Rauch
For Howard, The Big Bang Theory's resident womanizer, choosing between two women would appear to be the ideal predicament. Except when one of those women is his mother.
"This is his Sophie's Choice," Simon Helberg, who plays Howard, tells TVGuide.com. "He likes the ladies, but does he like his mom a little bit more?"
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Viewers will find out on Thursday's episode when Howard's girlfriend, Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), puts his affections to the test. After a romantic evening together at Bernadette's place, Howard gets ready to go home, once again, to his overbearing, overprotective and heretofore unseen mother (voiced by Carol Ann Susi). Unsurprisingly, that does not sit well with Bernadette, who gives him an ultimatum: choose her or his mother.
"He says, 'Uh ...' He's stumbling and you know, when the girl that you love says it's me or mom, and you're like, let me think about that, that's the wrong answer!" Helberg says. "She gets upset, but he does give it a shot with her."
After all, it's time for Howard to step up, right? With her own apartment, Bernadette has seemingly broken free from her own domineering mother — lest we forget, that's how she and Howard first bonded.
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"She's probably took this long [to give him an ultimatum] because she has an overbearing mother as well, so she understands what that's like," Rauch says. "It's something that Bernadette doesn't take lightly. I don't think she would throw it out there for no reason. She must've really been putting up with a lot. It's definitely coming to a head. She's reached the boiling point of how much of this she can take."
Life without Mrs. Wolowitz, however, does not go too smoothly. Having been coddled all his life, Howard is pretty much clueless about the dynamics of the modern relationship.
"He's a mama's boy. He never had a male role model, and his relationship with his mom is pretty dysfunctional. He thinks women do laundry and cook the food. That's just what he grew up seeing. He definitely has a little bit of a Mad Men sensibility of what women should do and not in the sexist way," Helberg says. "His mother is the woman in his life and has been forever. I don't think it would ever enter her radar that her son would leave. She's probably picked out his clothes. He's not super functional without her."
Despite Howard's oblivious missteps, Helberg believes he means well and sincerely does not know how he's offended Bernadette. "Hopefully that makes him endearing and not sexist. He gives it his whole heart and he tries. He just has a hard time not f---ing it up."
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So how badly are things in the end? There's some "damage done to Bernadette," Helberg teases, but both he and Rauch hope that the nerdy lovebirds are in it for the long haul — with or without Mrs. Wolowitz.
"What's sweet is that the [studio] audience went crazy when they tried to give it a shot," Helberg says. "When I say all the wrong stuff, you can feel the audience cringe and I think that's because they want us together. It's rare to find two people — in life and in television — that work better together than they do apart. There's some gold here. Just the mere fact that they found someone who would take Howard's crap and humble him a little bit and not try to change him is a miracle."